Nothing about the Ravens makes much sense right now.
This is a team crushed by injuries, with an NFL-high 16 players on injured reserve. That doesn’t include receiver Sammy Watkins and left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who were inactive with injuries Sunday.
And the Ravens had every reason to sleepwalk through Sunday’s game. They were coming off an emotional comeback win on a short week, and had a 4-1 Chargers team coming into Baltimore.
Yet the Ravens kept on rolling. They are 5-1 with five consecutive wins after a dominant 34-6 victory over the Chargers. They are clearly the class of the AFC right now along with the Bills.
“We like raising eyebrows in a good way,” coach John Harbaugh said.
The Ravens’ impressive start is where we lead off the Week 6 Review.
▪ They were supposed to buckle under the weight of their injuries, after losing three running backs for the season (J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill). They also have put No. 1 cornerback Marcus Peters, tight end Nick Boyle, defensive end Derek Wolfe, and special teams standout L.J. Fort on IR. Receiver Rashod Bateman, their first-round pick, didn’t make his debut until Sunday because of a groin injury.
All of which is to say that the Ravens have (A) a heck of a quarterback in Lamar Jackson and (B) a heck of a coach in Harbaugh. Jackson didn’t dominate the stat sheet Sunday, throwing for just 167 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. But Harbaugh was at his best, getting his shorthanded team ready to play on just six days of rest. The Ravens racked up 187 rushing yards, with discarded veterans Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, and Le’Veon Bell each rushing for a touchdown.
The Ravens also proved they have a defense, holding Justin Herbert to 195 passing yards, with a touchdown and an interception, and suffocating the Chargers to the tune of 208 total yards.
The Baltimore offense is No. 7 in points and has a potential MVP candidate in Jackson. The defense is No. 7 in points allowed. And they have the best kicker in NFL history.
“Whoever lines up against us, they’re going to get all of it,” safety DeShon Elliott said. “They’re going to get everything we bring to the table.”
▪ As for the Chargers, they remain in first place in the AFC West at 4-2, but Sunday’s game further exposed a major weakness: run defense. The Chargers are 32nd in rushing yards allowed (162.5 per game) and average rush (5.4 yards). Four of their last five opponents rushed for at least 180 yards, including 187 by the Ravens.
Coach Brandon Staley, whose Rams had the No. 3 rushing defense a year ago, has a bye week to figure things out before facing the Patriots in Week 8.
▪ The Cardinals had every reason to lose, playing at a solid Cleveland team without head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterbacks coach Cam Turner, who were both out because of COVID. Chandler Jones was out because of COVID, as well.
But with Vance Joseph filling in as head coach, and assistant wide receivers coach Spencer Whipple (son of former UMass coach Mark Whipple) and offensive line coach Sean Kugler calling plays, the Cardinals put a 37-14 beatdown on the Browns. Kyler Murray threw four more touchdown passes to bolster his position as the MVP favorite, and the Cardinals are now the NFL’s only 6-0 team, with double-digit wins over the Rams and Browns.
“This staff is amazing,” Joseph said. “It’s our third year all together, and that helps, having continuity like this.”
▪ Winning without your head coach was a theme of Week 6. The Raiders also pulled off an impressive 34-24 win over the Broncos in the head coaching debut of Rich Bisaccia, filling in for Jon Gruden, who resigned last week.
Derek Carr threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns in his first game with new play caller Greg Olson, and the Raiders improved to 4-2, tied for first in the AFC West.
“We work way too damn hard to not show up and put a great product on the field,” defensive end Maxx Crosby said.
▪ It’s time to take the 4-2 Bengals seriously. I don’t care if they beat the winless Lions. Going on the road and winning by 23 points is always impressive, especially when the score was 34-3 late in the fourth quarter.
Joe Burrow has been phenomenal in his second season, running back Joe Mixon and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase are both on pace for 1,000-yard seasons, and the defense ranks fifth in points allowed, giving up 25 only once all season (Packers in overtime).
Second-year linebacker Logan Wilson has been a monster, with 53 tackles, four interceptions, and four passes defensed.
“We do have to get some things corrected,” Burrow said. “And when we do that, it’s going to be scary.”
▪ Absolutely loved the decision by Eagles coach Nick Sirianni to go for 2 when the score was 28-20 in Thursday night’s loss to the Buccaneers. NFL tradition says to kick an extra point to make it a 7-point game, but the math says that going for 2 gives you a better chance of winning.
If you get it, you’re only trailing by 6, and you can win in regulation. If you miss it, you still have enough time to score another touchdown and go for 2 (and teams generally convert one out of every two attempts).
Per the analytics, going for 2 when down 8 gives you a 59 percent chance to win and 41 percent chance to lose. Kicking the extra point and playing for overtime gives you a 45.5 percent chance to win and 54.5 percent to lose.
The Eagles ultimately lost, 28-22. But Sirianni’s decision put them in position to win.
▪ The NFC playoff race is going to be wild. Five teams are 5-1 or better: the Cardinals, Bucs, Cowboys, Packers, and Rams. All five are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
▪ The Jaguars won! Urban Meyer finally got his first win after five losses, and the Jaguars ended a 20-game losing streak (second-longest in NFL history behind the Bucs’ 26-game streak) with a 23-20 win over the Dolphins in London.
The Jaguars overcame a 13-3 deficit, and earned the win with an impressive fourth-down stop and two long field goals at the end of regulation.
Meyer’s description of playing a game in London: “A three-hour root canal.”
Ranking the rookie QBs
1. Mac Jones, Patriots: Leads rookies in passing yards (1,472), yards per attempt (6.98), and passer rating (89.6).
2. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars: Finally got his first NFL win, and has just one interception in his last three games.
3. Davis Mills, Texans: Threw for 243 yards and two interceptions in 31-3 loss to the Colts. But he looked decent against the Patriots.
4. Justin Fields, Bears: Threw for 174 yards, a touchdown, and an interception in a 24-14 loss to the Packers, and is averaging 140.5 passing yards per game in his four starts.
5. Trey Lance, 49ers: Had one shaky start in a loss to the Cardinals, and the 49ers were off in Week 6.
6. Zach Wilson, Jets: Had his best week of the year: a bye.
Tracking former Patriots
▪ Bucs QB Tom Brady: Thursday’s win over the Eagles was Brady’s 10th career win on three days of rest, breaking a tie with Peyton Manning for the most of any QB since 1970.
▪ Texans RB Rex Burkhead: Played just five snaps and had one catch for zero yards in a loss to the Colts. Patriots should go get him.
▪ Chiefs LG Joe Thuney: Played all 82 snaps in the win over Washington, a week after he suffered a broken right hand.
▪ Giants coach Joe Judge: When the Giants were looking at hiring Judge last year, Bill Belichick famously told Giants owner John Mara, “He’s better than the last two guys you hired.”
But is he? The Giants are 1-5 following Sunday’s blowout loss to the Rams, and Judge is 7-15 (.318) in his short career. Ben McAdoo went 13-15 (.464) with a playoff appearance in two seasons, while Pat Shurmur went 9-23 (.281).
▪ Dolphins coach Brian Flores: Now 1-5 and his season has spiraled out of control. At least he beat the Patriots.
Stats of the Week
▪ The combined record of the AFC North and West: 29-19 (.604). The combined record of the AFC East and South (entering Monday’s Bills-Titans game): 15-30 (.333).
▪ A week after the worst extra-point weekend in modern NFL history (12 misses), kickers are 62 for 63 in Week 6, entering Monday. The only miss was by the Chargers’ Tristan Vizcaino.
▪ Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs became the first player in the Super Bowl era to have seven interceptions and multiple pick-sixes in his team’s first six games.
▪ Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes threw two more interceptions, giving him eight this year, or more than he threw in 2019 (five) or 2020 (six).
▪ The Bills, Cowboys, Packers, and Ravens are a combined 19-0 after each losing in Week 1.
▪ Three more games went into overtime, giving the NFL 11 overtime games this season, the second-most in history (12 in 1995).